Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Greatest TV Characters of the Past 10 Years

I watch TV.

Not an obnoxious amount of it (especially lately), but I have my shows that I like. So, in this guy's opinion, the following characters are my favorite of the last 10 years, listed in descending order by their greatness.

Lowell Mather - "Wings" - Lowell, the mechanic on this show about a small East Coast commuter airport was a big-hearted lunkhead who was always good for several laughs per episode. He was, by far, the best part of that show. Thomas Haden Church is now up for a Golden Globe for his role in Sideways. He's certainly come a long way.

Communicator Harry Solomon - "3rd Rock from the Sun" - I took some warming up to French Stewart. At first, I didn't realize what a comedic genius he was until I saw the movie Love Stinks. I gained a greater appreciation for his 3rd Rock character after I realized that he was not in fact, ANYTHING like his character on the show. The more I watched 3rd Rock, the more I liked it, but only because of Harry. As the family's only communication to the Big Giant Head, it was always great to see him go into Communicator mode.

John "JD" Dorian
- "Scrubs" - A relatively recent series, "Scrubs" has quickly become a favorite of mine. After missing most of the first season, I now rarely miss an episode. Zach Braff's JD is my favorite character because he is such a real character. His internal monologues are reminiscent of "Ally McBeal" and his insecurities and quirks are what make his character great. Plus, his ongoing feud with Janitor calls to mind Jerry v. Newman. No reason for their animosity toward each other, but brilliant nonetheless. And anyone who has ever looked up to someone can understand his adoration of Dr. Cox despite Cox's constant torment of him.

Julian Sark
- "Alias" - If Sark were more of a main character, he'd probably be higher on this list, but for a young show, this is one of the reasons that "Alias" has such a huge cult following (and is ultimately one of the best, if not THE best, shows on television). Sark is the ultimate bad guy. Dry, charismatic, good looking, and...British. What makes Sark amazing is that he is played by a guy from OREGON named David Anders. That's right. Oregon. It was good to see him in the forefront of the action in Season Three, but he will likely take a backseat this upcoming season (less than a month away!) with the addition of The Sister.

John Cage
- "Ally McBeal" - I got into this show really late, but there has only been one wackier, more nuanced character in the last ten years of TV (see below). Cage, played brilliantly by Peter MacNichol was a brilliant legal mind, severely hampered by his eccentricities. The way his nose whistled was my favorite.

Joey Tribbiani - "Friends" - Sentimental, sure. But I love Joey. Matt LeBlanc was smart to sign up to play him in his own show because he doesn't really have any other characters (see: any of his movies). Secretly, I was so glad. "Friends" needed to end, but I was going to miss it a lot and "Joey" at least has him. I imagine that if it lives (and there's a good chance it won't), that we'll see reunions with the other friends somewhere down the road. I can only hope.

Cosmo Kramer - "Seinfeld" - The craziest, most eccentric, most interesting, and most funny character in possibly the entire history of television. Most people probably couldn't even give you the full name of the man who played him (see here), but EVERYONE knows Kramer. The things that he did and the ideas he came up with were so off-the-wall that you wondered where people came up with them (the "Bro", the shower food disposal, tanning with butter). I know this isn't very original, but he was the reason that show was great. With only the other 3 characters, that show isn't half as good.

Marshall Flinkman
- "Alias" - I imagine that the producers of "Alias" were pretty pleased with themselves when they realized what an amazing casting job they had done when they put in Kevin Weisman as the geeky Q type character to Sydney Bristow's Bond. I know I was happy when they started including him in every show. He is the perfect amount of comic relief to a show that without it, is just a really really good drama. Marshall makes "Alias" the greatest show on television because he provides the balance that it needs to keep from taking itself too seriously. Rock on.

Jack McFarland & Karen Walker
- "Will & Grace" - There is a strong following of this show out there that think that the producers got it wrong. It should be called "Jack & Karen". While I love Debra Messing and Eric McCormack as the star-crossed friends, they are just too boring. Megan Mullaly and Sean Hayes are what make this show and if "Sex and the City" had not been on the last 6 years, Mullaly would have racked up several Supporting Actress Emmys by now. I grouped them together because...well, they go together.

Chandler Bing
- "Friends" - I imagine that it would have been easy for the other characters of "Friends" to get irritated with Matthew Perry. For the first several years of the show (if not for the entire length of it), Chandler got all of the funny lines and all of the best one-liners. His character was just, cross-dressing father who sings burlesque; sleazy romance-book-writing mother with a penchant for younger men. (One of my favorite lines of all-time from Ross: "Tonight did you wear a black cocktail dress and invite me up to your room?" "No" "Then you are NEITHER of your parents.") When Chandler and Monica hooked up, you half-expected him to blow it (and he almost did), but Chandler was the great sarcastic everyman...the guy who thought of all the lines that everyone wished that they could deliver on cue. ("Guess what!" "The fifth Dentist caved and now they all recommend Trident?") I think my favorite thing about "Friends" though, was Chandler and Joey's friendship. I could relate to it (especially the foosball playing). While I truly miss my Thursday friends, I'll always have the seasons on DVD to remember them by.

inspired by this article.


weasbri said...

Tony Shaloub is another Wings actor who was underrated until he showed up on "Monk". If you contrast his Wings character with the Monk guy, you see how brilliant he is.
I like your choices, especially JD from Scrubs, great show. I'm going to add one more, old school. Peter Scolari as "Michael Harris" in Newhart. Back in junior high and into high school, we would come in the day after Newhart with a new "Michael-ism", some quirky thing he would say on the show.

Beth said...

Shane, you always think of the greatest posts! This has got to be one of my favs! "Friends" had by far the best group of characters. It has been my all time favorite tv show from the start and although it truly brought tears to my eyes to see the last episode air, at the same time I was glad that they did have it end at the point that it did. But not a better character could have been picked than the infamous Joey to do a spin off with. He didn't start off as one of the strongest characters in the first episodes of “Friends” but he developed into one of the best, along with his laughable sidekick, Chandler, and who couldn't love Rachel. Every character had their great strengths on the show but out of all, those 3 made me laugh the most. I am such a fan that I even have every "Friends" episode on vhs. Yes, you heard correctly, vhs. I know, behind the times I am but currently, I have a very large glass milk jug that is filling up with change for the sole purpose to one day buy me every episode on dvd. Gosh, I love and miss my "Friends".....